Garages and Bus Stops
Turkish city buses usually start from a garaj (gah-rahjh) or central bus station. Although the word "garaj" implies a covered building, they are usually just big parking lots with ranks of buses. City buses operate on a time schedule, and will only stop at an otobus durağı (o-tow-boos doo-rah-ooh), or bus stop. These bus stops may or may not be marked, and may or may not have a shelter. If the stop you're looking for isn't obvious, ask a passer-by where it is.
In the big cities, bus drivers don't accept cash. You must have a transportation card with a certain amount of money pre-loaded on it. You can get one at various kiosks which advertise them by displaying a logo for the local card. There is a fee for the card itself, then a charge for whatever amount of money you want the card to hold. These cards only work in the city where they are issued, and good for all other kinds of public transportation, such as trams, ferries, and the metro.
Paying the Fare
With a transportation card, simply swipe it across a sensor next to the driver. It will beep, and automatically deduct the fare amount from the card. If you only have cash or your card has been depleted, nearby passengers will often offer to swipe their card on your behalf. Just pay the other passenger for the amount of the fare in return.
Getting Off at Your Stop
City buses won't stop at a bus stop unless there is someone waiting there, or unless the driver is signaled to stop by a passenger. You can do this by pressing one of the stop buttons at the exits and also in the railings along the aisle.
If you're planning to take the same trip regularly, familiarize yourself with nearby landmarks which will let you know when your stop is coming up, or ask a friend which landmarks to look out for. You can also tell the driver where you need to get off and he will stop there and let you know that you have arrived at your destination.
If you're unable to reach the stop button in time, say inecek var (ee-neh-jek var), which means "there is someone who is getting off." Someone near a button will press it for you. This phrase can also come in handy if, because of the crowd, you can't get to the door before the driver closes it. Shout the phrase, and he will open the door again and wait for you to get out.
Operating hours for bus systems vary from city to city, but they generally run at regular times from around 6:00 AM to Midnight. More popular routes will have reduced service, for example, every two hours, after midnight.
Özel Halk (Special Public) Buses
Besides municipal buses, some cities have privately-run buses which may accept both the local transportation card and cash. You'll find them in the larger cities on the more busy bus routes.
Pickpockets and Gropers
Crowded municipal buses are perfect for pickpockets. As a bus goes around turns and curves (the pickpocket will know exactly when one is coming up) will cause people to lean in to each other and grab railings and straps for stability. Read our article about pickpockets in Turkey for more information.
Regular complaints have come from female passengers taking the city bus, especially in Istanbul, about being groped by male passengers. If this happens, face the man who is doing it and make a scene. Not only will it stop, but other passengers may intervene on your behalf. For more information, see our article on sexual harassment in Turkey.